As kids get older, it becomes harder to find them appropriate reading material. So what’s a mom of an avid reader to do?
To edit or not to edit our children’s reading material. While in the secular world the “c” word is an anathema to many, we in the frum community are caught in a dilemma. When faced with the choice of allowing books that don’t meet our standards, or banning them altogether, what about a middle ground: selectively editing books that have some problems but are otherwise appropriate?
Yes, we’ve heard the protests. That seeing blacked-out words makes children more curious–or resentful. That they may be inspired to seek out an unedited version of the book, just so that they can read the ‘forbidden’ parts. These are all valid arguments, and for that reason, we leave the decision up to the discretion of each individual parent or school.
From Hogwarts to Knockturn Alley
My first foray into editing came with the Harry Potter series. When the first book was published and rapidly started flying off the shelves to great acclaim, I briefly contemplated whether I would one day give them to my kids to read. The word on the street was that the first book was “clean” (setting aside the issue of magic, which is beyond the scope of this article), but the assumption was that as Harry matured, there would certainly be problems in the later books.
As my oldest was 5 at the time, I naively decided that we would simply only allow our kids to read the first few books. Fast forward a few books later, when I had a gaggle of little Harry addicts, some as young as 8 years old, who were eagerly awaiting each volume as it hit the shelves. Starting with book 4, I started reading the books first and using markers and the occasional torn out pages as a compromise, which my kids gladly accepted as the lesser of two dementors–um, evils.
By the time Book Six came out, we were at Walmart at 10 AM. By 6 PM I was done reading and I had my edits ready–and what a project it was! Double-layer full-size mailing labels glued down to each offending page added considerable heft to the 652-page book – but at least we had the only kosher Half-Blood Prince on the planet.
Tales of a Teen-aged Bookworm
When I had my first teenaged son living at home (after a few who were in dorms for high school), I was faced with the prospect of a desperately bored teen who was very, very done with the typical middle-school reading. After a few fruitless afternoons perusing the “Young Adult” section of the library, I began creatively searching for books and series that had limited issues, which could reasonably easily be edited with minimal damage to the storyline.
We added a secondary rating to Kosherbooks.org – a “Teen” flag which indicated that the book might be appropriate for some teens, possibly with editing. Squeaky-clean teenage books are exceedingly rare, so parents who wish to maintain the highest standards for their teen selections will likely need to look elsewhere – for this reason, many of our teen books do carry a “questionable” or “problematic” rating. However, if you are willing to tolerate some language and/or violence, and perhaps mild boy/girl references, check out some of the options below. More significant issues are noted with page numbers in some books for editing purposes.
7 Books and Series that COULD be for your teen (possibly with editing) – Read comments on Kosherbooks.org.
Click on the links at the end of each description below to see what you may want to edit.
Alex Rider (series) (Anthony Horowitz)–Teenager recruited by MI6 has spy adventures. Lots of violence, usually by bad guys, some particularly cruel. Surprisingly little romance, but it does exist – see comments for page numbers for editing.
The Rithmatist (Brandon Sanderson) – Teenaged boy and girl fight evil, in a world where chalk-drawn creatures come alive. Sophisticated read. The first book has minor issues, others in series not released at the time of this writing. Look here for complete comments.
The Six (trilogy) (Mark Alpert) – Teens with life-threatening illnesses have their consciousness ‘transplanted’ to robot bodies. The boy has a close friendship with girl and considers her his “girlfriend,” but for the most part, there is little actual romance – descriptive thoughts or actions are noted with page numbers in comments.
Skulduggery Pleasant (series) (Derek Landy) – Girl with magical powers saves the world. Well-written, with a dry wit that readers will love. Appeals to boys even though the main character is a girl. Lots of violence, gets quite gory in later books. Running thread of boyfriend, mostly non-romantic; pages with specific stronger issues are noted in comments.